AN ‘OFFICIAL’ FAVOR
It’s what the Conference USA officials who worked Saturday’s Florida International at Louisville college football game gave the Golden Panthers, whether coach Ron Turner actually asked for it or not.
The seventh-ranked Cardinals (4-0) flogged FIU 72-0 – after leading 38-0 at halftime – at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. To quote one of my cousin’s favorite expressions, “I haven’t seen a beating that bad since I put a banana down my pants and turned the monkey loose.”
It could’ve been 100-0, and likely would’ve been, if the officials didn’t call for a running clock in the second half.
Afterward Turner claimed he hadn’t asked for it.
“I don’t have the authority to request it,” he said. “I wish I had the authority. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have, you know, but I did not request it.”
A subsequent press release from Gerald Austin, the coordinator of officials for C-USA, said that Turner “made a comment to one of the officials that, given the amount of injuries and the limited numbers of players he had available, he wanted to run the ball in the second half,” but “one official misinterpreted that comment.”
Regardless, the officials did FIU a favor. And they did the right thing.
The game was over after the Cards forced the Panthers to go three-and-out on the game’s first possession, then drove 50 yards for a touchdown – another incredible catch by junior wideout DeVante “The Plastic Man” Parker.
It was followed by a field goal and a punt (a what?!) before Louisville scored touchdowns on nine of its next 10 possessions. UofL’s final point total was its highest since beating Murray State 73-10 in the first game of the, gulp, Steve Kragthorpe Era in 2007.
Teddy Bridgewater continued to bolster his Heisman Trophy campaign (see more below), completing 17 of 22 passes for 212 yards and four touchdowns. Even Bridgewater’s backup, redshirt freshman Will Gardner, was impressive, completing all five of his throws for 42 yards and a feel-good TD to Michalee Harris, who has come back from multiple knee injuries.
Meanwhile UofL’s three-headed monster at running back became a four-headed one as redshirt freshman Brandon Radcliff got into the act, rushing for a touchdown like his three counterparts (Senorise Perry, Michael Dyer and Dominique Brown) did. Brown had the best run of the day, a hellacious, tackle-breaking 77-yard rumble on the Cards’ fourth possession that set up his own 1-yard TD dive.
Most impressive, though, was the Cards’ defense. It held the Panthers (0-4) to only two first downs and 30 yards of total offense in posting the program’s first shutout in three years (since blanking Connecticut 26-0 in 2010). Granted this was against a team that was coming off a 34-13 loss to Bethune-Cookman.
In four games Louisville has outscored its opponents 192-27. Not a bad start. The Cards are one-third of the way to the undefeated regular season that many expect.
WHERE DOES TEDDY RANK?
From time to time this fall I’ll give you my rankings of the top 5 contenders for the Heisman Trophy.
Here are my rankings this week:
1. Johnny Manziel – Johnny Football followed up his un-Godly performance against Alabama by passing for 244 yards and one TD and rushing for 102 yards and two TDs in Texas A&M’s 42-13 slaughter of SMU.
2. A.J. McCarron – The Alabama QB wasn’t nearly as impressive (he completed 20 of 26 passes for 258 yards with one TD and one INT) in the Crimson Tide’s 31-6 triumph over Colorado State on Saturday as he was last week against A&M, but he’s still in the top two.
3. Bridgewater – In other years he’d easily be No. 1 at this point. In the Cards’ first four games he’s completed 79 of 110 passes (an astounding 71.8 completion percentage) for 1,214 yards and 14 touchdowns with one interception. He currently ranks second in the FBS in passing TDs and third in passing efficiency.
4. Tajh Boyd – The Clemson QB threw for 244 yards and three TDs in Tigers’ 26-14 victory at N.C. State on Thursday night. In three games he’s thrown for 683 yards and six TDs (with no interceptions) and rushed for 90 yards and three TDs.
5. Marcus Mariota – The Oregon QB was off this week, but he’s already built up a solid body of work, having thrown for 889 yards and seven TDs (without an INT) and rushed for 262 yards and four TDs.
WHERE’S IU’S OFFENSE & DEFENSE?
Through its first four games Indiana’s offense has been almost unstoppable, ranking 13th in FBS in scoring and 14th in total offense.
The Hoosiers’ defense, though, can’t seem to stop anybody. At least any formidable foe.
That was again the case Saturday night as visiting Missouri scored 24 straight points on its way to a 45-28 win over IU (2-2).
The Tigers (3-0), who finished 5-7 last season, racked up 623 yards of total offense – a record for an opponent at Memorial Stadium – against Indiana’s defense (which ranks 105 out of 123 teams in the FBS). Mizzou QB James Franklin looked like a Heisman candidate (although he is far from it), passing for 343 yards and two touchdowns and also running for another TD.
IU’s offense didn’t do its defense any favors, though. The Hoosiers, who had punted only five times in their first three games punted nine times against the Tigers.
IU sophomore quarterback Nate Sudfeld didn’t look like the same QB he did in the first three weeks. He completed 21 of 39 passes for 229 yards with one touchdown but three interceptions. One of those was the game-changing play. On third-and-3 from his own 46, with the Hoosiers trailing 21-14 late in the second quarter, Sudfeld tried to lob a screen pass over Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy. It didn’t work. The 6-5, 275-pound Ealy made a leaping INT and returned it for a 49-yard touchdown.
That was the beginning of the end of Sudfeld, who was lifted in the second half in favor of former starter Tre Roberson. The redshirt sophomore played well in Sudfeld’s sted, completing 8 of 14 passes for 148 yards and one touchdown (he also added a rushing TD). Looks like we’ve got a quarterback controversy again.
At least Kevin Wilson will have two weeks to figure it out (although he might not) and try to revive IU’s running game (after rolling up 266 against Bowling Green it only had 98 vs. Missouri) too. The Hoosiers have a much-needed bye week before hosting Penn State on Oct. 5.
ANDREWS STARS IN PETRINO’S HOME DEBUT AT WKU
First-year Western Kentucky coach Bobby Petrino had his home debut Saturday night. It was a success – the Hilltoppers mauled Morgan State 58-17 – thanks in large part to the Antonio Andrews Show. But you have to ask yourself, was it Petrino’s last home-opener in Bowling Green (more on that below).
But first to the game, where Andrews was a one-man wrecking crew. The senior had 291 all-purpose yards – including 213 rushing – and ran for a school-record five touchdowns. Andrews, who currently leads the FBS in all-purpose yardage per game (222.25) and is third in rushing (545 yards), broke free for a 65-yard touchdown on the first play of the game. It was over from there.
Led by Andrews, the Hilltoppers amassed 588 yards of total offense (375 on the ground). Even former Central High School star Anthony Wales got into the act, rushing for 65 yards and one TD.
Things took an interesting turn at quarterback for the Hilltoppers, though, as Petrino gave true freshman Todd Porter the start, and played his other three.
Porter was just 5 of 10 for 76 yards with one interception while deposed starter Brandon Doughty was 7-for-7 for 55 yards. Also for the Hilltoppers, sophomore Nelson Fishback finished 3-for-4 for 49 yards and also rushed for 28 yards and a TD, while former Seneca High School standout Damarcus Smith was 2-for-3 for 33 yards with one interception while rushing for 31 yards.
What does that mean going forward?
“We’ll study the film, evaluate where we are at and see what we need to do to give us an opportunity to win this next game,” Petrino said afterward. “You’re not going to be able to go out there and rotate four quarterbacks in. We’ve got to find a way to win this next game.”
Western hosts 2-0 Navy next Saturday in what should be a difficult game.
FIVE POSSIBLE LANDING POINTS FOR PETRINO NEXT YEAR
Even Western Kentucky fans don’t expect Petrino to be in Bowling Green for more than two years, but what if he’s there only one? What job would he leave Western for? From time to time this fall I’ll take a look – and rank – the Top 5 next possible landing points for Petrino.
1. Texas – Saturday’s 31-21 victory over Kansas State may have saved Mack Brown’s job, but only for the moment. The smart money says he won’t be around next year. Sure the Longhorns’ defense is the big problem, but I’m sure Petrino could find a top-notch defensive coordinator to join him in Austin.
2. Mississippi State – Dan Mullen has a 31-24 record in 4-plus seasons in Starkville, but he’s never finished higher than fourth in the SEC West. The Bulldogs are 2-2 after Saturday’s 62-7 victory over Troy. Their schedule, though, is extremely difficult the rest of the season with five ranked foes in their final eight games. After a bye week next Saturday, MSU hosts LSU, Bowling Green and Kentucky before playing at South Carolina and Texas A&M. The Bulldogs then sandwich home games against Alabama and Mississippi around a road game at Arkansas to close out the regular season. The best they could go in that stretch is likely 3-5. If they go 2-6 or even 1-7 (and especially if they can’t beat Kentucky), Mullen is probably gone.
3. West Virginia – The Mountaineers went 10-3 in Dana Holgorsen’s first year at the helm in 2011, but dropped to 7-6 last year, their first season in the Big 12. Saturday Maryland shut them out 37-0. Ouch! WVU (2-2) has three straight games against Top 25 teams (Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas Tech) coming up. Its end-of-the-season schedule isn’t as difficult, but Nov. 9’s game against Texas looms as a loser-loses-his-job battle. If the Mountaineers finish below .500 Holgorsen could be on his way out.
4. Wake Forest – The Demon Deacons bounced back from their 21-19 loss to Louisiana-Monroe with a 25-11 victory over Army on Saturday. Wake (2-2) has had four straight losing seasons, another under Jim Grobe (who has been there since 2001) could be his last. Two things here: 1. Wouldn’t it be ironic if Petrino took over the program he beat in the 2007 Orange Bowl? 2. Wouldn’t he love to be in the ACC and get a chance to play Louisville again?
5. Indiana – Before this season started some were saying that the Hoosiers could be a surprise team in the Big Ten. After four games I have to say I’m not seeing it. They couldn’t stop Navy or Missouri, so how are they going to stop Michigan State, Minnesota or even Illinois? They probably won’t. If Indiana only wins one or two games in the Big Ten Wilson might be unemployed.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Andrews. The WKU senior had 291 yards of all-purpose yards (213 rushing, 58 on punt returns, 19 on kickoff returns, 1 on a recovery and 5 TDs).
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK RUNNER-UP: Parker. The UofL junior had six receptions for 74 yards and two touchdowns.
OTHER OFFENSIVE STANDOUTS WORTH MENTIONING: Bridgewater (17 for 22 for 212 yards and 4 TDs); IU WR Cody Latimer (8 catches for 139 yards and 1 TD); IU WR Shane Wynn (5 catches for 90 yards and 1 TD).
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: IU S Greg Heban. The senior recorded two interceptions and a game-high eight tackles against Missouri.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK RUNNER-UP: WKU LB Xavier Boyd. The senior, who has been a regular on this list so far this season, had a game-high 10 tackles (three for loss and two sacks) to go along with a forced fumble in the Hilltoppers’ mauling of Morgan State.
OTHER DEFENSIVE STANDOUTS WORTH MENTIONING: IU CB Tim Bennett (7 tackles, 3 pass break-ups, 2 TFL, 1 fumble recovery); UofL DT Roy Philon (5 tackles, including 3 for loss); UofL LB Preston Brown (5 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 pass breakup); WKU LB Andrew Jackson (9 tackles).
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Charles Gaines. The UofL redshirt sophomore returned the opening kickoff of the second half 93 yards for a touchdown.